Comic Book: Punk Rock Jesus
Lets give them what they came for!
"Hello, America! The most christian nation on earth! The one that God has blessed! This is Jesus Christ, coming to you live from lower Manhattan, telling you all...Go fuck yourself! Jesus hates you!"
— Chris, Punk Rock Jesus #4
Punk Rock Jesus is a six-issue Vertigo
mini series created by Sean Gordon Murphy, known best for his work on Hellblazer: City of Demons, Joe the Barbarian and American Vampire: Survival of the Fittest, who writes and draws it. It has been described by Murphy as his "passion project years in the making", and focuses on the cultural impact of religion and mass media on the United States.
The story follows Chris, a genetic clone of Jesus Christ who grew up as the star of a reality show called J2, eventually rejecting all things religious, becoming an atheist, and using his celebrity status to start a punk rock band in an effort to rebel against religion.
This comic book contains examples of:
- The Atoner: Thomas.
- Badass Normal: Thomas McKeal, the ex I.R.A bodyguard of Chris, his friends, family and chief of security at J2.
- Bears Are Bad News: Cola, the friendly polar bear Dr. Epstein domesticated, goes completely apeshit on the NAC goons who try to infiltrate the J2 island.
- Bittersweet Ending: Chris is dead, but the J2 project gets dismantled, it's implied that the lower-class denizens of New York may have a shot at living better lives, Thomas manages to achieve at least a measure of redemption, and Slate gets a supremely satisfying Karmic Death.
- Boom, Headshot: Thomas does this to his Uncle Sully, after finding out he was the one who killed his father. With an assault rifle. On full auto.
- Break the Cutie: Almost everyone in the story who isn't Slate gets this at some point. Most notably Gwen (who at one point nearly gets Driven to Suicide) and Dr. Epstein.
- Child Soldiers: Thomas joins the IRA when he's 6. Even before this he knew how to remove the clip from a pistol and use a shotgun. This is what prompted his father to turn informant.
- Clone Jesus: Chris and Rebekah, at least at first, until it's revealed that they while they are indeed clones, the DNA they came from was a two-day-old sample from an anonymous donor, and not a 2,000-year-old sample lifted from the Shroud of Turin.
- Cloudcuckoo Lander: Tape, the bass player for The Flak Jackets, thinks that being in mortal danger is cool and exciting and is seemingly oblivious to the implications and consequences of it to an absurd degree. When Rabbit is mortally wounded in a terrorist attack he reacts as though it were a minor inconvenience, even while everyone around him is noticeably affected. He gets his namesake from the fact that he wraps his fingers in tape for no apparent reason. It's probably the most normal thing about him.
- Comic Book Fantasy Casting: Slate is a dead ringer for Aaron Eckhardt. Eamon, the bartender from Thomas' flashbacks, bears more than a passing resemblance to Colm Meaney.
- Cool Bike: Thomas inherited one from his dad.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Slate.
- Cyberpunk: More emphasis is given to the "punk" end, but corporate corruption and advanced computer technology also feature prominently.
- Biopunk: The moral and theological implications of attempting to clone a religious figure are the foundation for the central conflict of the whole story.
- Delinquent Hair: Chris gives himself a mohawk when he becomes a punk rocker, Thomas had a short mohawk when he was younger, Tape shaves his head, and several unnamed punks sport various flavors of spikey hair.
- Deuteragonist: Chris might be the most important character in-universe, but he's really more of a plot device than a character for the first part of the story. Thomas is arguably the real protagonist.
- Driven to Suicide: Gwen has a dream that she jumps off the balcony of her room at the psychiatric hospital afte escaping J2, but is saved by what she believes is an angel. This leads to her renewed efforts to rescue Chris from J2.
- Evil Parents Want Good Kids: Thomas' father agreed to turn informant against the IRA because he didn't want his son to get involved in the conflict. Unfortunately, his brother happened to be a member of the IRA, and killed him before he could reveal anything, then ended up recruiting Thomas into the IRA anyway, making his father's sacrifice meaningless.
- Evil Uncle: Thomas' Uncle Sully killed his father to keep him from becoming an informant.
- The Fundamentalist: Daisy Milton and the New American Christians. Probably intended as a twisted parody of the Westboro Baptist Church (in one issue, a bumper sticker featuring the WBC's infamous slogan can be seen on the back of one of their vehicles).
- Gaia's Lament: Global warming is in full swing, and parts of Manhattan have already been written off as flood zones, walled off and abandoned. Dr. Epstein agrees to the J2 project only because they agree to fund her efforts to create genetically-engineered algae that might reverse the process.
- Gilded Cage: The J2 island is extremely luxurious. Chris and Gwen have all their physical needs met and don't have to work, but they're contractually bound to stay, and are isolated from the outside world and secular media. There are a number of security measures in place to keep them in.
- Infant Immortality: Averted. Played straight with Chris' twin sister.
- Karmic Death: Slate seems to have gotten off almost scot-free (it's implied that he'll be ruined professionally because of all the negative publicity now surrounding J2, but it seems to him just to be a slap on the wrist) but gets picked up by Thomas on his motorbike in the very last pages of the book. His face gets dragged along the highway while Thomas rides, until Slate gets thrown under the tires of a semi-trailer.
- Meaningful Name: Thomas McKeal,who's last name resembles that of the archangel Michael described in the book of Daniel as a "great prince who stands up for the children of your people" and is the patron saint of Catholics, Jews and soldiers.
- Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Thomas' nickname while he was in the IRA was "The Cemetery," thanks to the tattoos of crosses he got on his back, one for each person he killed.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: TV news host Don Baker is an obvious parody of Larry King.
- Not So Different: Chris' militant atheism is comparable to Daisy Milton's religious zealotry; both believe their personal crusades will make the world a better place, and they're both willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals regardless of the consequences.
- Plea of Personal Necessity: Slate begs for Thomas to spare him right before he gets thrown under the tires of an oncoming semi.
- The Power of Rock: Chris's schtick once he goes full Punk Rock Jesus-mode.
- Shout-Out: Several futuristic guns from various sci-fi films/series are seen throughout the story, including weapons from RoboCop, Blade Runner, Star Wars, Aliens and Appleseed.
- A Blade Runner spinner is shown sitting in a parking lot in one issue.
- Someone to Remember Him By: After Cola is killed during the NAC raid on J2, Dr. Epstein clones a new bear cub using Cola's DNA, naming the new one "Coke" as a tribute.
- Tattooed Crook: Thomas' back is covered in tattoos of crosses, each represents a protestant he killed during his time in the IRA.
- Technical Pacifist: Thomas makes a conscious effort not to kill anyone while serving as Chris' bodyguard, but anyone who goes up against him usually ends up in the hospital. His no killing vow doesn't hold up, though; he's forced to kill the Islamic militants that attack the Flak Jackets in Jerusalem.
- Took a Level in Badass: Chris. Before his mother is killed in front of him. he's a meek, sheltered, mama's boy. Afterwards he becomes an atheist punk rocker, escapes the J2 island, and actively challenges religion with his band, The Flak Jackets.
- Took a Level in Jerkass: The need to debate and fight against a religious norm is debatable. Calling your perpetually-depressed mother who died trying to save you a media whore is not.
- The Troubles: Featured prominently in Thomas' flashbacks.
- Twenty Minutes into the Future: The main story takes place over several years, between 2019 and 2035.
- Western Terrorists: The NAC become this over the course of the story. Discussed by Thomas, who warns Chris that his continued antagonization of the group only reinforces their extremism, saying, "They're turning into a Christian al-Qaeda."